Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Hamilton’

Given all the other tomes on my bookshelf, I surprised myself by checking out from the library, The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis (2015), the author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx, about Thomas Jefferson.

The subtitle, Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, informs how George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, along with others such as Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris (not related), got the thirteen colonies, who had fought off the British, came to accept another centralized government.

A lot of reviewers noted, and it was my experience as well, that our American history courses in high school presented the narrative of the last quarter of the 18th period woefully incompletely. There was the revolutionary fury of the Declaration of Independence and the war, which was reasonably well laid out. The Articles of Confederation -they failed, but why? – followed. Then the Founders came up with the Constitution – but how? – including the Bill of Rights.

In fighting the American Revolution, the colonists were cohesive in that limited battle against the British. However, the notion that these 13 nation-states would then relinquish their independence to accept the creation of a powerful federal government was no guarantee. Certain visionaries diagnosed that structure created by the Articles of Confederation was doomed to fail. They suggested conventions, purportedly to amend the Articles, but ultimately to throw them out.

As Newsday noted: Ellis’ account of the run-up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the subsequent state-by-state ratification process is so pacey it almost reads like a thriller. New Yorker Hamilton, fearful that anarchy was looming, developed a national vision first; Madison was just a bit behind. Jay, serving as foreign affairs secretary, was trying to fashion coherent foreign policy. But all agreed that if their efforts were to succeed, a reluctant Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, had to be on board. Washington’s revolutionary credentials were unassailable.

“In 1780, most Americans, having thrown off the fetters of a faraway central power, would have thought the kind of national government envisioned by Washington and Co. as peculiar in the extreme. Some historians have viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution by a cabal of elites who crushed an emerging democracy. Ellis, however, reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century; he prefers to see the efforts the quartet as ‘a quite brilliant rescue’ of revolutionary principles.”

I totally agree that, for a topic that could be very dry, I found the book surprisingly engaging. Ellis explains how the Founders, even those opposing slavery such as Hamilton, essentially ducked the question for the cause of federalism, hoping the topic would be addressed down the road, which it was, decades later.

I should mention that I got the large-print version of The Quartet because that happened to be the edition near the checkout. I didn’t NEED it, but I’m not complaining about it either.

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What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion

‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist’

‘Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell The Grieving

The Encyclopedia of the Missing

When the only way to go free is to plead guilty

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Why Do We Need to Sleep?

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in praise of soft targets

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RIP, David Ogden Stiers

Dalai Lama, Chicago in May 2008:
“The universe is in a constant state of becoming—an ongoing miraculous creation. Every day we awaken to that miracle with gratitude, respect, and compassion for all who share the gift of being.”

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MUSIC

Camille Saint-Saens’s Septet for piano, trumpet, and strings, Opus 65!

Hamilton Polka

The Music of Paolo Tosti – Carla Fisk and Michael Clement

Will Jesus Wash The Bloodstains From Your Hands – Hazel Dickens

Everlasting Arms – Luke Winslow-King, Vasti Jackson, Dr. John, and Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi

Norma Tanega (and Dusty Springfield)

There Is A Time – The Darlings (Andy Griffith Show)

Tush – Luna Lee on the gayageum

Cover of Take on Me (a-ha)

Sound of Silence – Todd Hoffman

Taxman – Joe Bonamassa, Live at The Cavern Club

Inside the Life of Brenda Lee, the Pop Heroine Next Door

As a result of the tremendous success of the musical about the United States’ first Treasury Secretary, there have several articles referring to “the Hamilton effect.” This 2016 article in Playbill describes saving the $10 bill, popularizing Hamilton as a first name, and increasing an interest in late 18th century American history. See also here and here, for instance.

In the Albany, NY area, the Hamilton effect is strong. The historic Schuyler Mansion celebrates 100 years as state-run site. It’s a bigger deal than it might be because Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler “in the mansion’s parlor on Dec. 14, 1780. The couple lived in Albany for nearly two years after their marriage and they brought their children on summer vacations to the 32 Catherine St. house. Scholars believe Hamilton wrote three of the 85 articles known as the Federalist Papers in the house.”

My wife finished Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography, all 832 pages of it, this summer. The daughter insists that we listen to the music every time we are in the car. This is actually less than last year when the playing was nonstop.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical altered the lives of countless unsuspecting fans with a powerful history lesson embedded in hypnotic, rhyming lyrics and a hip-hop beat.” It won 11 of 16 Tony awards for which it was nominated.

Long before the phenomenon, we were positively disposed toward Hamilton. A. Ham’s wife was a member of First Presbyterian Church, my current church, albeit in a different location.

Upon the death of Alexander Hamilton in 1804, highly-regarded First Presbyterian minister Eliphalet Nott delivered a “powerful sermon condemning the practice of dueling. It had a profound influence in curtailing the custom and has been recognized to this day as a work of great oratory.” I heard the sermon delivered at First Pres in 2004.

The three of us are hoping to finally see Hamilton in the next couple years.

The soundtrack
The soundtrack
The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)
Hamilton’s “rap” still rings true today

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I have found many things that have taken place on the political landscape in the last six months or so worthy of celebration.

There have been protests, many of them local, for banning the bomb, upholding women’s rights, protecting the immigrant and the refugee, saving the environment, and several other causes.

People are becoming actively engaged in the political process, working on special elections, running for office, or at least considering it. They are showing up at town halls when members of Congress come back to town.

The veil is coming off FOX “news”. Yet other news outlets are thriving.

A couple interviews on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah in June 2017, on successive days in June 2017, gave me encouragement. William J. Barber II is shifting the moral conversation about the poor, a group neither major candidate for President talked about last year. Among other things, Rev. Barber is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement.

I was also taken by John Avlon. The Daily Beast’s Editor-in-Chief was promoting his new book “Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.”

George Washington feared, he explained, that political parties would “push a narrow, self-interested agenda that would block the national interest” and “create a deadlocked and dysfunctional democracy” that would leave citizens “so frustrated by the inefficiency and ineffectiveness that it could open the door to a demagogue with authoritarian ambitions.”

And by demagogue, I mean “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.”

So on this Independence Day, it is important to note the words of another of our Founders, Alexander Hamilton: “Of those men who have overturned the liberty of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by playing an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.”

We must always push back against tyranny.

One of mixed blessings of the past year has been the Daughter’s obsession with all things Alexander Hamilton. In case you’ve somehow missed the buzz, the musical Hamilton has been a Broadway and touring company phenomenon. It’s about “the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States.”

On one hand, she knows far more about the Federalist Papers than she might have. On the other hand, for a good part of the past year, it was all Hamilton, all the time. She’d go to sleep to it, wake up to it, play it during dinner, play it on road trips. I got a bit Hamiltoned out, frankly.

And yet we fuel it. For Christmas, she received a book called HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION by composer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, “a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–‘since before this was even a show’ [which] traces its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.”

It’s interesting that a lot of people who’ve never even heard the music – and, as noted, I’ve heard it a LOT – have dismissed it as a rap musical, when it features a mixture of popular musical styles. Here’s a review of the original Broadway cast:

“Thanks to the arrangements by musical director Alex Lacamoire, the score includes tinkling harpsichords, schmaltzy strings, and lush choral harmonies. The Schuyler sisters—Angelica (Hamilton’s close, perhaps romantic, friend, played by Renée Elise Goldsberry), Eliza (his wife, Phillipa Soo), and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones)—trade fast-talking verses and harmonize on choruses in an R&B groove that sounds like Destiny’s Child; Burr (a smashing, properly smarmy Leslie Odom Jr.) busts out with a fit of envy in the form of a razzmatazz show-tune, ‘The Room Where It Happens’ (commenting on the secret meeting among Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison at which American government’s first quid pro quo was bargained). Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) opens the second act returning from Paris and asking, in a boogie-woogie number, ‘What’d I Miss?’ And there are several… beltable ballads. England’s King George (a hilarious Jonathan Groff) pouts about the loss of the colonies in the mode of a bouncy British breakup tune: “What comes next? / You’ve been freed. / Do you know how hard it is to lead? / You’re on your own. / Awesome. Wow. / Do you have a clue what happens now?”

And all of us now sing the mundanities of life to songs on the soundtrack. I use to try to stir the teenager in the morning, “Just get up! Just get up!” to the tune of the first song that goes “just you wait, just you wait.”

The Daughter has seen/read/listened to all of these, of course:

How ‘Hamilton’ is revolutionizing the Broadway musical

Hamilton condensed down to seven minutes

Jesus of the Galilee

The 2016 Song- A Year in Review, Hamilton Rewind Parody

I Have an Opinion on Every Song in “Hamilton”

Top 10 Hamilton songs

10 Unforgettable Hamilton Moments of 2016

Alexander Hamilton’s shadow

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